How to Keep Your Marketing Emails Out of the Spam Filter

By eleventy marketing group

How to avoid the email spam folderIn a recent NonProfit PRO blog post, our own Angie Moore reported on the 2015 Deliverability Benchmark Report—which analyzes how many commercial emails are making it into customer inboxes. Angie focused on one particularly troublesome trend detailed in the report findings: Fewer emails are reaching their final destination.

According to Return Path, a global data solutions provider that put together the report: “Worldwide, just 79% of commercial emails land in the inbox. This means that one out of every five emails never reaches the intended recipient. Instead, it’s either sent to a spam folder or goes missing—most likely blocked by the mailbox provider.”

Nowhere is this problem more prevalent than in the United States. As Angie writes, “The largest drop in deliverability—the highest drop anywhere in the world—is in the U.S. In 2014, reaching the inbox in the U.S. was measured at 87%, and in 2015, we have dropped to 76%.

That’s a drop of a 11% in delivered emails in 2015. While the exact reason for the increase in rejected emails is unclear, it’s troubling that 24% of emails are not getting where they need to go. So what can you do to buck the trend and keep your emails out of the virtual wastebasket? We’ll explore the answer to that question in today’s blog post.

How Do Emails Get Marked as Spam?

Before we get into what you can do to keep your emails from being marked as spam, let’s talk briefly about how emails get marked as spam.

Emails get labeled as spam for one of two reasons:

  1. The Internet Service Provider (ISP) that hosts the email server (which includes Yahoo and Google, among others) have processes in place to identify emails that may be spam and keep them out of inboxes. Why? Because there’s a lot of spam out there and if they weren’t blocking it people would get overwhelmed. It’s been estimated 80-90% of all email is spam. So ISPs do their best to filter out the junk before it hits your inbox.
  2. The recipient marks one or more of the emails they receive from an email address as “junk” and now anything else they receive is automatically filtered out.

So both machine and man play a part in deciding which emails get branded as spam.

How to Keep ISPs from Marking Your Marketing Emails as Spam

So how can you stop the machines from thinking your emails are spam and not delivering them? While there’s no foolproof solution, here are a few best practices (as detailed in this Entrepreneur article):

  1. Get permission – You know those opt-in emails you get that make you verify you signed up for emails by clicking on a link? There’s a reason for those. They let the ISP know you want emails from that sender. Without permission, for example with purchased email lists, there’s a good chance your emails won’t make it through the filter.
  2. Provide an unsubscribe option – All commercial emails are legally required to include a visible unsubscribe option. Also, the “from” email address must be viable and you must include a physical address too. If you don’t do these things, ISPs may not let you through (and you’ll be breaking the law).
  3. Don’t look like spam – What makes an email look like spam? Links to disreputable websites, overusing ALL CAPS or spe@ia! char*cter$, using too many images without enough text, or including bad code. If your emails look similar to spam, they will be labeled as spam.

How to Keep People from Tossing Your Emails in the Junk Folder

If your emails are making it in front of people’s eyes, than you’ve already cleared the first hurdle. But it might actually be worse when the recipient marks your email as spam. Once a person has branded your email junk, it’s pretty tough to get out of the doghouse.

Here’s how you can keep from being sent there in the first place (with insights from this Constant Contact article):

  1. Send relevant content – If you’re sending someone something they don’t want or find valuable, even if they signed up for emails from you, they will relegate your email address to the junk folder. Create clear expectations upfront of what people will receive when they sign up to receive emails from you to keep this from happening.
  2. Send the right amount of emails – Maybe recipients want your emails and value your content, but you’re bombarding them with emails every day or every week and that’s just too much for them. Eventually one of those emails will send them over the edge and they’ll click “move to junk”. Try to find out how often people want to receive emails from you when they sign up so you can avoid this problem.
  3. Send emails at regular intervals If someone signs up for your list then doesn’t hear from you for a year, you have a much higher chance of getting thrown into the junk pile. Another example: You send four emails one month, none for another three months, then two in one day. No good. Regularity and consistency will help hold your place in the inbox.

Don’t Forget… Every Undelivered Email Is a Lost Opportunity

Remember, it’s not just an email list—these are customers and donors, or potential customers and donors. And emails aren’t just messages in a bottle that you cast out into the virtual ocean—they are pieces of communication that act as a bridge between your organization and individuals. Be proactive so you don’t lose out on people and opportunities through careless email practices.

You can download the full Return Path 2015 Deliverability Benchmark Report here.

1 in 5 emails don't reach their intended recipient